Author: Shaun David Hutchinson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Young Adult, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary
Release Date: January 20th 2015
Page Count: 297
The funny thing is, I had actually heard of The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley before. I remembered seeing the cover before and I knew that it had been recommended to me through Goodreads plenty of times, I just never got around to picking it up. Strange how things work out.
The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley is written just as beautifully as We Are The Ants. The writing style is perfect and is just so well done. Both novels are probably right up there on the list of books that I have sticky noted the crap out of due to the amount of memorable quotes or situations. Shaun David Hutchinson just has this way of writing about life that is beautiful. I know that no one truly knows the meaning of life and all of its secrets, but he truly makes me think about things in ways that I maybe normally wouldn’t have before.
“It’s risky standing here staring at her. Death’s got my name on her list, and though I’m in disguise, it’s only a matter of time before she sees through my mask and discovers not a young man who serves slimy hash but a young man she was meant to collect.”
There was actually quite a few characters within this story and usually I’m not a huge fan of that. The more characters there are, the harder it is for me to remember them all and get to know them or relate to them. In this case, I was a little worried at first as I did confuse a few characters for one another initially. But as the story went on, I was able to keep track of who was who. All of these characters really did interact well with one another and I think their relationships with one another were really well done. I do wish however that we were able to learn more about some of these minor characters. We had Drew, Rusty, Lexi & Trevor and I think we learned the most about them, however I wish I was able to get to know characters like Emma, Jo, Steven, Arnold and Aimee, and even Father Mike, a little more. They all seemed like great minor characters that had their own excellent stories to tell, and maybe even secrets to reveal.
Where details lacked in the lives of the minor characters, we did learn more about the primary ones. These are the characters that I was most able to relate to and the ones that I didn’t confuse for others. We learn about their dark pasts and their current life situations. A lot of these moments were tough to read. They were beautifully written, but I couldn’t help but feel sorrowful anytime Rusty mentions the relentless bullying he has to deal with or anytime Drew discusses his troubling past. It was hard reading about Lexi and Trevor and what they have to live with on a day to day basis while being stuck in a hospital. As hard as some of these things were to read, they were all extremely realistic. These things are, without a doubt, happening to multiple teens throughout the world and reading stories like these really opens up your mind.
Another thing I loved was the way that this story dealt with LGBTQIA+ themes. There are a few characters within the novel that identify as gay and each of them is dealt with in a different manner. One is loved by everyone around him regardless of his sexual orientation. No one brings it up, other than within a friendly manner, and no one bothers him about it. On the other side of the spectrum, we have another character who is ridiculed and bullied due to his sexual orientation. Shaun David Hutchinson is so fantastic when it comes to writing about themes such as those present within The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley and I think he deals with these themes in the most beautiful way.
“As I look over at Arnold and Father Mike, I realize that adults are just as fucked as the rest of us. No one really grows up. No one unravels all of life’s many mysteries. They just grow older and become better liars.”
Lately, I think my mind has been shaped to expect some big twist ending or something that I just wasn’t expecting to hit me in the face. That style of storytelling has definitely become prominent recently. What I loved so much about The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, and even We Are The Ants, is that they completely avoid shock endings or twists. Instead, Shaun David Hutchinson expertly unravels the story until all of the details are clear and all of the secrets come out. Nothing hits you blindly, but is rather slowly laid out before you. I can’t tell you how refreshing that is. To know that you’re not going to be blindsided, but instead can enjoy the details of the beautifully written story before you.
As I think I’ve made abundantly clear, Shaun David Hutchinson has become a favourite author of mine and it’s likely to stay that way for a really long time. His writing style is perfect for me and I highly recommend looking in to his novels, especially if you are a fan of writers such as Andrew Smith and Adam Silvera.